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Minorities have no absolute right: Centre

Minorities have no absolute right: Centre

Author: J. Venkatesan
Publication: The Hindu
Date: May 2, 2002

The minorities have no absolute right under the Constitution to establish and administer educational institutions as such a right was subject to "reasonable restrictions'', the Solicitor-General, Harish Salve, today submitted before a 11-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court hearing 11 questions relating to the rights of the minorities.

Beginning his arguments at the conclusion of elaborate arguments (which began on April 2) by counsel for the petitioner institutions, Mr. Salve differed with the petitioners' contention that the minorities had absolute rights to establish and administer educational institutions, including professional colleges.

The right to impart education was subject to "reasonable restrictions'' and the earlier Constitution Benches had correctly interpreted the issues and the problem was only in applying the principles.

Only when the reasonable restrictions denuded the right under Article 30 that they would be unreasonable, Mr. Salve said. He would continue his submissions.

Arguing for some of the minority institutions, senior counsel, K. Parasarann, had submitted that the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 29 (1) conferred an absolute right on the linguistic and religious minorities. If they established and administered educational institutions, be it aided or unaided, they were entitled to admitting students of a particular minority to the maximum extent possible.

Senior counsel Rama Jois submitted that the non-minorities had the right to establish and administer educational institution under Articles 21 and 29 (1) (protection of the interests of the minorities) read with Articles 14 (equality before law) and 15 (1) (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) in the same manner and to the same extent as the minority institution. He argued that there should be no discrimination between the minorities and the non-minorities in imparting education.

Earlier on Tuesday, senior counsel K. Subramanian, appearing for the Tamil Nadu Minority Private Educational Institutions Protective Council and others, furnished statistics to show that for a population of over 102 crores, India had only 100 government-run medical and 186 engineering colleges.

As against this, there were 52 private medical and 556 engineering colleges, he said and added that this would show that in India "we have on an average one government medical college for a population of 1.20 crores and one government engineering college for a population of about 54.60 lakhs''. When the Government was not in a position to cater to the educational needs of the society, if the minorities were also restrained from establishing professional colleges, such an approach would be detrimental to public interest.

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